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The youth and the singing-girl

The youth and the singing-girl

From a leaf from a disbound manuscript of Jami, Baharistan (Garden of Spring), copied for Mughal Emperor Akbar, dated year 39, Ilahi era (1595 AD), Lahore. Painting by Madhu.

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Elliott 254, fol 35v

This folio is from a magnificent Mughal copy of a 15th-century Persian classic that was prepared for Emperor Akbar at Lahore and represents the high point of Mughal luxury manuscript production of its era.

The Baharistan (Garden of spring) is divided into eight chapters, one devoted to love. In it, a young man hears a girl singing on the terrace of her master’s house and falls in love with her. Despite the mutuality of their ardour, he renounces his love in favour of chastity.

Exquisitely painted, the image conveys the poignancy of the moment of falling in love and the lush detail of the scented garden in which it occurs.